Note: The Bond Health Center recently changed its name to the Oconto Hospital & Medical Center, a change deemed necessary to better reflect the services the facility offers area patients. This story was written before the name change.
OCONTO - Rosemary Blohowiak says a higher power and Oconto’s Bond Health Center are to thank for her husband Mel’s miraculous victory against a near fatal attack of sepsis last year.
“A lot of people know our story,” Rosemary Blohowiak said. “But more need to know that we have a great hospital, the Bond Center, right here in Oconto.”
The Bond Health Center is an 11,000-square-foot hospital, which includes a four-bed inpatient unit, 24-hour Level IV emergency department with X-ray, CT laboratory and observation services. It also offers sleep studies, limited hours urgent care, a 24/7 nurse help line and IV therapy. It is the result of a partnership between Bellin Health and the Oconto Memorial Hospital Citizens’ Foundation.
The Blohowiak’s story started on August 27 last year when Mel Blohowiak, 79, went to a Green Bay-area hospital for routine knee replacement surgery.
“After the surgery while he was still in the hospital, I could tell he just wasn’t himself,” Rosemary said. “He was very agitated, someone had to be with him most times and at night he really didn’t know where he was,” Rosemary said. “He was discharged even though he was running a low-grade fever and was sort of disoriented.”
Feeling somewhat assured from the hospital that Mel’s fever and his disorientation – said to have likely been caused by his medication and painkillers – wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about, the couple left the hospital on September 1 and headed back to Oconto where Mel would begin therapy on his replaced knee during an extended stay at an area rehabilitation center.
Still, Rosemary says she kept a watchful eye on her husband and his continued changing behavior.
During Mel’s September 4 therapy session, Rosemary became more acutely aware that something was still not right with her husband’s health, although it wouldn’t be until the next day that she would find out that her husband had been slowly succumbing to sepsis – a serious medical condition characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state triggered by infection.
“The physical therapist at the rehab center said, ‘there is something wrong with this man,’” Rosemary said. “Mel couldn’t stand up, they couldn’t get him out of the wheelchair, he was complaining of pain in his back. He wasn’t acting normal at all and the therapist said Mel should have already been able to start walking again at that time.”
The next day, Mel’s condition rapidly deteriorated – he started blankly at the walls for uncomfortably long periods of time, didn’t speak at all and, after 26 years of marriage, he couldn’t remember Rosemary’s name. Eventually, he went comatose.
“It was awful,” Rosemary said, her voice trembling at the still vivid memory. “He had no blood pressure, no pulse, no nothing. They asked me if he was diabetic, was he epileptic? He wasn’t any of that.”
Emergency responders resuscitated Mel, but he remained locked in a battle for life. He was loaded into an ambulance. The emergency responders asked where to rush Mel for treatment.
Initially Rosemary wanted to rush Mel to a Green Bay-area hospital but distance and time were against him.
“That’s when I said no, get him over to Bond,” Rosemary said.
Mel was in the care of Bond Center emergency staff for about three hours. Bond Center emergency staff members stabilized her husband who was eventually transferred to a hospital in Green Bay. It was later determined that a blood clot had likely formed in Mel’s colon leading to the episode of sepsis.
Mel has since recovered from his near death experience and Rosemary enthusiastically credits the Bond Center’s intermediary action for saving her husband’s life during the critical period of his ordeal.
“They were very comforting and kept me informed as to what was going on,” Rosemary said. “I just want to tell everyone what a great facility we have here.”
Bond Center executive director Laura Cormier appreciates those sentiments.
“From the Blohowiak’s ordeal, it’s evident that one of the key advantages we give patients in a critical care situation is time,” she said. “In many cases – heart attack, stroke, allergic reactions – time can mean the difference between life and death.
“Our location in this more remote area northeast of Green Bay can be, as we’ve seen in the Blohowiak’s experience, pivotal in the survival of patients in dire need,” Cormier said.
Rosemary Blohowiak knows that firsthand and can’t say enough about the benefits of having such a facility so near to home.
“If this little hospital wasn’t here, Mel wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I’m so thankful we have this hospital here in Oconto.”